Women chefs and restaurateurs is an organization that has
risen to answer a need in the culinary community.
One of the most frequent requests that I get as a chef during
an interview is. "Do you have any advice to give people coming
up the ladder?" I really only have one answer. " You need
a mentor." You need to find yourself someone that will take
an interest in your career and guide you through the difficult
moments. Sometimes they are cooking questions and sometimes
they are tough work situation but you need someone. I was
very lucky that there has always been a chef or friend there
for me that cared about my career, my progress, and was making
sure that I was learning what I needed to learn. Even after
20 years in the industry I still have mentors, people that
I look up to and respect, people that answer my questions
- people that I listen too.
Being a chef can be the most exciting and fun job. I have
thoroughly enjoyed working in the kitchen. However, when the
pressure and challenges begin to mount its great to have support.
Women Chefs and restaurateurs have really come through for
women starting out and working their way up in the restaurant
industry. By formalizing a mentoring program they have made
it possible for the "mentees" to access advice, knowledge
and the edge they need to move forward in their careers.
The WCR has enlisted 140 members to mentor, an impressive
list of who's who in the industry names like Alice Waters,
Anne Rosenzweig, Nora Pouillon, and Sarah Moulton. This is
an opportunity for women to share expertise, and "to support
the advancement of women in the restaurant industry. " These
are key component of the mission of WCR. I also feel that
it helps to build a stronger culinary community. The more
shared information can only help create better food on the
tables' of restaurants around the country. I have to hand
it to the leadership of WCR that they seem to have created
a great balance between personal contact and modern technology.
They have structured the program to contain at least 2 personal
meetings a year and e-mail contact twice a month.
Women Chefs and Restaurateurs current president is Chef Ann
Cooper of the Ross School in East Hampton, NY. I wanted to
share her perspective with you on the up coming mentoring
I asked her what she hoped to achieve by establishing a mentoring
program? "One of the comments we've gotten from members is
that networking is really important - that they want to be
able to connect with other women in the industry and learn
from those with more experience. My hope is that we'll succeed
in helping our members fulfill these desires and help women
in the industry be ever more successful in their careers."
Chef Cooper feels that the initial 200 mentees need to have
"a desire to learn, to share, and eventually a desire to mentor
others." The WCR has created an application that needs to
be submitted to the group in order to facilitate "matching
mentees needs with mentor strengths."
When I asked chef Cooper what qualifies someone to be a mentor
she said. "Someone with knowledge in the industry that they
can share with others, many mentors will have a proven track
record of accomplishment in the culinary world."
Personally, I wouldn't mind having Alice Waters as a mentor
myself. Where do I apply?
For further information about the program contact executive
director Melissa Mershon at [email protected].
Written By Sarah Stegner